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3i4                HISTORY OF PERSIA
Mahmud left Kandahar in mid-winter, and again traversed
the desert to Narmashir and Kerman. On this occasion
he took the city, but the fort resisted so stoutly that he
was glad to accept the trifling sum of ^5000 and raise
the siege. He then marched on Isfahan by way of
Yezd, which he attacked without success. From Yezd
he took the direct route to the capital, and on the way
was met by envoys who offered ^30,000 if he and his
band would return to Afghanistan. Encouraged by this
sign of weakness at the heart of the Empire, the invaders
pressed on as far as Gulnabad, a village on a bare feature-
less plain, eleven miles from Isfahan, and there halted.
The Afghan and Persian Armies.—The Afghan army
now consisted of perhaps twenty thousandx men. It had
suffered losses by death and desertion at Kerman and
also at Yezd, and the only recruits who had joined it
were a few Zoroastrians. ' Its artillery was composed of
one hundred zanburak, or swivels—literally "little wasps "
—mounted on camels and throwing a ball of a little
under two pounds in weight.
The Persian force assembled at Isfahan was more than
double the number and was provided with proper artillery.
Its base was a populous city and it was fighting in defence
of its own hearths. More than this, the fate of Persia
depended on its valour. At a council of war the opinion
at first prevailed that it would be better simply to hold
the capital and allow the Afghans to wear themselves out
against the walls. But the advocates of defensive action
were overruled. The Vali of Arabia insisted upon the
disgrace the Shah-in-Shah would incur if he were afraid
to meet a band of plundering Afghans. In Persia self-
esteem is perhaps stronger than elsewhere, and the Vali's
glowing words were acclaimed and carried the day. To
avoid arousing jealousy, the command of the troops was
divided, and the Persian army, fifty thousand strong,
strengthened by twenty-four guns, marched out to the
plain of Gulnabad.2
1  Krusinski doubles this number, but I follow Malcolm.
2  Many years ago, when camped on the site of this battle, I read how the Persians,
sumptuously armed and splendidly horsed with saddles and stirrups mounted with gold,
laughed to scorn the ragged sun-scorched Afghans.    My thoughts went back to the